Work with Florida on its drug import program, Trump tells Azar — report
Drug importation is coming to the United States — well, Florida — and President Trump is on for the ride.
A Politico report published on Monday, suggests that Trump has asked HHS secretary Alex Azar to work with Florida governor Ron DeSantis on the state’s drug import plan, citing congressman Matt Gaetz who attended an Oval Office meeting that lasted for about 45 minutes on Monday afternoon, during which the issue was reportedly discussed.
Florida’s program — which facilitates the importation of drugs from Canada for the state’s health departments — is set to come into force on July 1. It has been the subject of fierce criticism from the drug lobby and president Trump’s advisers, including Azar.
At the meeting at the White House on Monday, Azar — former president of Lilly’s US operations and BIO board member — aired his concerns about the program, suggesting that manufacturers could limit prescription drug supplies if they don’t make enough money, and questioned how to ensure the safety of imported medicines, the report said.
According to Gaetz, Trump said the drug imports would instead trigger drug companies to lower their US prices, and that the meeting had been called to facilitate the review of the program by Azar’s department, with a view to subsequently approve it.
“We’re like the Blues Brothers of drug importation,” Gaetz, a DeSantis adviser, told Politico on Monday. “We’re on a mission from God.”
Representatives from PhRMA and BIO condemned the program.
“No Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services has ever approved a drug importation proposal because of the difficulty of ensuring that patients would not be put in harm’s way and that it would also save patients money. Any and all importation schemes threaten the safety of patients and are the wrong approach for America,” a PhRMA spokesperson told Endpoints News.
BIO echoed a similar sentiment.
“This dangerous proposal has been around for years, but has never been adopted because the risks far outweigh any potential benefits. Policymakers should reject this flawed and worn out idea, and instead they should pursue real reforms that promote the health and safety of patients and lower out of pocket costs for prescription medicines,” a BIO spokesperson told Endpoints News.
Lowering drug prices has bipartisan support, although drug manufacturers and PBMs blame each other for skyrocketing prices. The Trump administration has proposed various steps to curb costs — including pegging US prices to overseas rates — and various lawmakers have also made it a cornerstone issue, including Senator Chuck Grassley, the new chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren.